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Washington Voices

Collection A Model Of Enjoyment

Sat., Feb. 14, 1998

Terrance Martin is not one of those collectors who keeps his treasures stashed away, never to be removed from their original package, never to be touched.

Collectibles, the Valley man believes, are to be enjoyed. They should be held and played with, and admired. And, whenever possible, used to tease your wife.

Martin has been known to dress his $400 plastic “Alien” model in a diaper and place it in his son’s bassinet. He once cleaned out his wife’s china cabinet, replacing the crystal with antique plastic monsters.

“I don’t take my hobby too seriously,” said the 42-year-old father of six. “Some people see it as their retirement fund. We just like to have fun with the stuff.”

Martin’s “stuff” includes more than 1,500 plastic models, everything from the original “Yellow Submarine” model to a 1965 “Bride of Frankenstein” figurine, bolted to a table next to a severed arm and a cup of blood. He has models of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mickey Mouse and the Polaris nuclear submarine. He has monsters of all shapes, sizes and nationalities.

The collection is valuable, but not as valuable as it could have been if Martin had decided to keep the models unopened and untouched.

Instead, he enjoys putting them together. His children, who range in age from 2 to 17, sometimes help. Sometimes, they just play with his collectibles.

“To me, a kit is to be built. Assembling it is like bringing it to life,” said Martin, who works at Harpers in Post Falls, programming computer-controlled equipment used to build office furniture.

Martin’s very first model was inspired by the movie “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He saw it when he was just three or four, and afterwards, tried to build his own submarine using glue and matchsticks.

The end result, he admits, was an unsightly, gluey mess. But the seed was planted.

His passion blossomed after his family left Spokane and moved overseas. He spent more than a decade in Australia, a country known as a dumping ground for unsold and unpopular model kits from America, Japan, and other parts of the world. Many, he said, are sold cheap, only to become valuable in later years.

For example, Martin paid just $12 for his unsightly Alien model, a toy rejected by American consumers.

Today, he said, the model can sell for up to $400.

Some of Martin’s models have pieces so small, you almost need a magnifying glass to appreciate the detail. He points to the carefully carved facial features and intricate wrinkles cut into the pants of a tiny, half-inch tall plastic figurine.

“Look at the quality of the details,” said Martin, a former vice-president of the Australian Plastic Modelers Association. “It’s the sort of work you would typically see in jewelry.”

Martin doesn’t hesitate to buy his models second-hand, or to improve upon them.

“A lot of these things belonged to someone else,” he said. “To me, it’s okay to give them a new life.”

After buying a “Return of the Jedi” speeder bike figurine, he noticed it didn’t have a holster and gun on its leg, as the character did in the movie.

So he made the pieces himself. He also plans to rebuild the broken hat atop his Cat in the Hat model.

Martin admits, he may never have time to finish every model in his collection. He certainly won’t have space to display them all.

These days, raising a large family takes up most of his spare time, so he only gets about an hour a week to spend on his collection. But someday, he plans to really dig in.

His retirement years, he said, are probably already accounted for.

“I’m definitely not worried about boredom,” Martin said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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